Butcher’s block, writer’s block


The cursor blinks on the blank page. Write, write, write it taunts. I haven’t updated my blog in over a year. It has been on the back burner as my days are filled with cooking, and not a lot of time to write about cooking. But it is important to me that I write as well. Inspired by the recent 2 day food writing workshop I took last weekend, I sat down this afternoon and started updating my blog. I changed the theme, updated my tag line, and started the process of trying to organize and revamp my page.

I started writing a blog as a natural evolution to a vegan food column I used to write in a zine. That’s slang for magazine, for those of you not hip to the lingo. An old punk rock zine, printed on actual paper, with crinkled pages that left your hands sticky with ink. I loved that magazine. But the times changed, and so did I. I decided to take on a blog as a means of expanding my column from print to the internet. But I also didn’t want to write a vegan recipe section anymore. It didn’t fit what I was doing, or who I was. And as this changed, I lost my readership. And I guess, a clear sense of what it was I was wanting to write about.

Here I am, years later, trying to figure that out still. Right now this is a blog where I want to come and talk about what is important to me in the world of food right now. And for the past few years, that has been the arts of food preservation- charcuterie, pickling, fermenting, cheese making, canning. Preserving food, through age old methods, and preserving the traditions that go along with practicing these techniques. I don’t know where the blog will go from here. And that’s alright.

One of the important things I learned in the food writing workshop was that  blog doesn’t have to be an endpiece- that it can be used as a tool for practice. That showing up and writing the blog is more important than what is written. Holding myself accountable to show up, write, be present in what I am doing. Here I am. Writing, into the void. To no one, to everyone. Possibly to a couple people from my writing workshop who had their own out of date, stunted blog projects. A first step.

Pepperoni and Salami Nola

The newest batch of salami are just finished fermenting. This time around is traditional pepperoni and a Salami Nola. I am excited to see how they turn out!


The pepperoni are hanging on the left, and the Nola on the right. The pepperoni is a pork and beef salami, seasoned with black pepper, cayenne, fennel and paprika. The Nola is all pork and seasoned with pepper, chili flakes, and allspice. Half of each of the salami are currently getting a few hours of cold smoke, then back to cure for a couple of months. I can’t wait to try them!

It’s been a while!

Hello to the couple readers out there- It’s been quite  a while since I posted. Mainly, it is because of some rather significant life changes. Over the past few months, I said goodbye to my old Sous Chef position at Cafe Flora, the restaurant I had been working at for 5 years, and embarked upon my new job opportunity, opening and running the kitchen as Executive Chef of the new Central District bar and restaurant, The Neighbor Lady.

It is every chef’s dream to be given creative domain to write a menu from scratch, purchase equipment, design a kitchen line, hire a crew, organize ordering lists and purveyors, sample products, test recipes. To start a brand new kitchen. It’s also a TON of work. It has been a delightful, exciting journey so far. I have been given such a wonderful gift to have my own professional kitchen. It has detracted some from my hobbies and endeavors of cheese making and charcuterie at home- though there will be much more to come.

We are currently working to improve our tiny apartment kitchen and have purchased an additional fridge to turn into a sausage cave. Cheese presses are made and we are able to consistently mold larger batches of cheese. And spring is finally here, which allows us more time outside to forage- nettles, fiddle head ferns, devil’s club shoots. And hopefully soon, Morel Mushrooms…

So for the few and far between that have been wondering where I’m at, there it is. Thanks for checking in!

Charcutepalooza November Challenge- Curing Whole Cuts

This month the challenge was to cure a whole cut of meat. We chose to do Bresaola 2 ways, cutting the eye of round into smaller pieces for a faster cure. Both turned out great! One was the traditional dry cure with herbs and salt; the other, first a dip in red wine and herbs, then finished about a week later in the rest of the dry cure. Earthy, silky, and easy to make! Bresaola, 2 ways…

October Charcutepalooza Challenge- Stretching

For the month of October, the challenge for charcutepalooza was stretching. What’s stretching, you ask? This month, we were asked to stretch the amount of food we could make from an item, the length of time we could preserve it, and to stretch our imaginations as well. The task at hand: the Chicken Galantine. The dish which takes the whole bird, skin removed in a single piece, boned out and broken down. The breasts are seared, while the thigh and leg meat are combined with pork back fat, eggs and cream to make a forcemeat. The whole skin is frozen then  layered with the forcemeat and the seared breasts, wrapped in cheesecloth, and poached. Whew! A lot of work goes into this roulade, and I have to say, it was worth it. A ton of fun to make, and delicious.

The Charcuterie book called for pate spice to season the Galantine. We decided to season our version of this classic with truffle salt, nutmeg, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper. Then after sitting in the gelatinous stock overnight after poaching, we seared the galantine and served it atop creamy parsnip puree, and roasted baby purple potatoes. A hearty, flavorful autumn meal, with Pinot Noir, of course! Salud!

And, as an added bonus, we had far more forcemeat than the recipe called for. With that, and the flavorful stock from the bones, we made chicken soup flavored with blue kuri squash, collard greens, home made pancetta, and chicken meatballs from the forcemeat. Talk about stretching, we’ve been able to eat all week on one 4 pound chicken, in multiple variations. It feels great to see every scrap of the bird used, from start to finish and know that it was raised humanely from Draper Valley farms, and utilized from the bones to the meat and skin. Cheers to the Charcutepalooza crew for this challenge, it was a great one.

September Charcutepalooza Challenge…

It has come and gone, and I have finished, sadly, right upon the back end of the deadline again. Time seems to be moving so quickly these days, it’s the 15th of the month again before I know it.

This month’s challenge was to make a Pate Gratinee en Croute. I ended up making a terrine of emulsified pork shoulder, back fat and pancetta, filled with a rich layer of sweet, salty duck leg confit. Baked, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked again until crispy, buttery, golden brown.

Sounds pretty fucking great right?

To be honest, I was a tad disappointed. I just wasn’t all that wowed with the flavor and texture of the pate. Something to work on, perfecting the emulsification. Truth be told, I think my heart just wasn’t in it this month. I have Mortadella frozen that we haven’t gotten around to eating all of from July, headcheese from last month, and now half a loaf of pate to add to our crowding freezer. I just can’t eat any more cold, gelatinous meat product, no matter the quality, care and time that went into it. I’d fail in France.

My dream is to one day have my own shop, with my own charcuterie, cheeses, foraged mushrooms, with Jake, my partner in business, and love. While I want pates and terrines, my focus is more on sausages, cured meats and salami. That, plus trying to get our cheese making apparati into working order, and now starting to forage for mushrooms into September has made me stretched a bit thin. So many things to accomplish, so many adventures and endeavors! I’m a lucky lady, if not a tired one.

I’ll have to add making the perfect pate to the list, but not for another few months. Enough with the cold meat paste, this gal needs some salame…

August Charcutepalooza Challenge: Headcheese, revisited

Headcheese. The tender meat from the pig’s head and trotters, slow braised and suspended in meat jelly. Sounds challenging, fun to make, and utterly, indulgently, delicious. The question is, where do we get the head? And the feet?

How about the whole hog.

Whole PigAt Jake’s suggestion, we decided to get a whole piggy, and drove to pick up our pig and butcher it in the kitchen at home. All 75 pounds of it. I had never broken down a whole pig before, and was really excited about the whole endeavor. Plus, in addition to the head and feet for the monthly Charcutepalooza challenge, we would be supplying ourselves with fresh cuts of pork, a plenty.

We started by breaking down the head and feet to get them braising for the headcheese. On the stove were stockpots for the Consomme that would eventually suspend the meat in the terrine.

Head and Trotters

We liked our pig, and took silly pictures with it. This is an event, afterall, butchering a whole pig in the comfort of our studio apartment! Pork portraits were necessary.

Pig HeadThis was a days long event, with precious time on our hands to get the pig broken down and refrigerated, stocks going around the clock, head and feet roasting, Consommes a clearing… it was an adventure to say the least, in home cooking.

Consomme RaftThe consomme took a good day to make, having to make the stocks, reduce them, then clear them through the raft. In the end, it was worth the time because it yielded a dark, rich, clarified stock that was striking in the terrine. Once the consomme was done, we layered the terrine.

Then into the fridge, to set up. Fingers crossed!

And lo and behold…the Headcheese:

Absolutely decadent. Delicious. I have to say, while I have seen some truly amazing pictures from other bloggers this month, the two day extravaganza that started with an entire pig, and ended in this first bite was a satisfaction and accomplishment like no other.  Cheers!